For some reason Jean’s taken her hearing aid out. It squeals alarmingly on the sideboard beside her, an ethereal soundtrack to the scene, like I’ve wandered onto the set of a 1950s Sci-Fi movie. Instead of an egghead alien with pincers for hands, though, it’s her husband, Ted who slowly shuffles in from the living room.
‘Put your hearing aid in!’ he bellows, jabbing a finger at the carpet, for some reason. ‘Your hearing aid! Put it in!’
Jean ignores him, waggling her hand towards the medicines on the table.
‘ I need the new one!’ she shouts. ‘I haven’t had the new one yet!’
I feel sorry for Ted. Jean isn’t the easiest patient in the world. She’s recently back from hospital after a hip replacement, and though I’m sympathetic, and can quite understand how uncomfortable she must feel, how frustrated by her reduced mobility, still – there’s a waspish quality to the way she talks that makes you want to take a step back, or better still, leave the room and quietly close the door.
‘Not that one!’ she yells. ‘The new one!’
Ted grumbles over to the table, clears his throat, slowly lifts his glasses, and starts methodically pressing each bottle to his nose.
‘He’s a fool!’ says Jean – not exactly to me, but to the bench of invisible judges behind her who must surely be recording all these injustices. ‘He doesn’t understand…this is hopeless… NO! THE NEW ONE!’
Quite why she doesn’t have her meds next to her and do them herself, I’m not sure. This way she’s definitely at risk of under or overdosing. The new scrips are for heart problems and pain relief. It’s all in solution because of her difficulty swallowing, and needs careful measuring out into a dispensing cup. But Ted’s sight is poor, his hands are shaky, and when he should be sitting down, calmly figuring out that four times five mls four times a day means a dose of 20 mls now, (and which of these little lines means 20mls…?), he’s flicking his attention between the bottle and the cup, the cup and the bottle, as panicked as if he’d suddenly found himself holding a ferret and a rabbit.
‘Would you like me to do it?’ I say.
‘Yes please!’ he says, almost throwing them at me. Then he shuffles over to the counter to make Jean’s breakfast instead.
‘Do you want Weetabix or Cornflakes?’ he shouts.
‘Weetabix or Cornflakes?’
‘Oh dear God!’ says Jean.
‘Right! You’re getting Weetabix,’ he says, turning away.